Skip to comments.Bookstore Ghettoes (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 05/09/2007 8:34:59 PM PDT by jazusamo
May 10, 2007
If Rachael Ray had been black, there are bookstores where her cookbook would not be displayed in the same section with all the other cookbooks. It would be displayed off in a special section for black authors.
This means that many people who were looking for cookbooks would not even see Rachael Ray's cookbook, much less buy it.
This is not rocket science but it seems to have escaped the notice of those publishers who supply racial information on their authors, thereby jeopardizing sales of their own books.
Some years back, I was looking for a particular book on child development and was surprised not to see it in the large section of child development books at a local bookstore.
When I asked a clerk to check and see if that book was available, she checked her computer and then said that there were copies in the store right now -- in the section for black writers.
I had no idea what race the author of this child development book was, and would have considered it irrelevant if I had known. But our schools and colleges have turned out millions of people steeped in the new sacred trinity of "race, class, and gender."
I was reminded of all this recently when I noticed that my own latest book, "A Man of Letters," had as its number one official classification "African-American Intellectuals."
This book is no more about black intellectuals -- I don't even use the term "African American" -- than the child development book was about race.
Fortunately, a local San Francisco Borders bookstore that I visited seems to have ignored that classification and had the book on the shelves for books on government and politics.
Actually, "A Man of Letters" is a collection of excerpts from letters I have sent and received since 1960, on topics ranging from education to economics, law, the media, Third World countries and -- in a very few places -- black intellectuals.
Since these letters also cover events in my own life, the book is probably best classified as autobiographical. But I was happy to see it on the bookstore shelves under "government and politics," instead of being shunted off into a racial ghetto, where people looking for this kind of book are unlikely to go.
This is only one of many examples of how much this generation -- especially the "educated" part of it -- has let symbolism over-ride substance.
With just a moment's thought, anyone whose IQ is not in single digits would see the absurdity of the idea of losing book sales for the sake of symbolism. But the real problem is that so many people today don't stop and think when they are being swept along by some fashionable notion.
The notion of honoring black ("African American") writers with a special section in bookstores is just one of innumerable fashionable symbolic notions that ignore consequences.
In other situations, the negative consequences of mindless symbolism can be far more serious.
For example, one of the letters in "A Man of Letters" is from my friend and fellow economist Walter Williams, mentioning that he learned of a teaching hospital near him which had an unwritten policy against giving a failing grade to any black medical student.
Similar policies are mentioned in other letters, to and from other people, about double standards for black medical students at other places, including the Harvard Medical School in the 1970s.
Apparently the symbolism of having more black medical students on display was allowed to over-ride consideration of the consequences of sending out into the world under-qualified doctors, at the risk of their patients' lives.
It is not that these consequences are too complicated for the people who run medical schools to figure out. But nothing gets figured out if you don't bother to stop and think about it.
One of the reasons people don't bother to stop and think is that symbolism lets them feel good about themselves. They can go through life leaving havoc in their wake, while enjoying a warm glow of self-approval.
Lower book sales for black writers are one of the milder consequences.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.
I wonder where he lives. I’ve never noticed any such division in the bookstores I go to.
Not to draw the matter to too fine a point, but it appears to me that “par” is in the middle, and if thus remembered helps prevent spelling the word as “seperate.”
Another good one, thank you!
Bookstore owners are, for the most part, liberal-leaning fellows, all hearty and hi-ho who mean well but misread the average Joe-on-the-street; coloreds have had it hard over the years but have been slow to complain which is why, I guess, we have those who cry on their behalf.
Still, a whole article devoted to books or even periodicals is so yesterday, buggy-whippish, even.
He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute on the Stanford University campus. So I suspect he lives somewhere in or near Palo Alto, California, which is about as PC an area as you will ever find. Wealthy liberals, Birkenstocks and Volvos abound here.
“Symbolism lets them feel good about themselves”
say it say it say it!
I’m sure there are many that are happy their work is in a separate section. Dr. Sowell has always been against separate and isn’t afraid to talk about it and he probably outsells the others at least a hundred to one.
Thanks for the info.
That’s right, Borders and stores like them are run for the most part by the lib elite and Dr. Sowell doesn’t fit in with their idea of the higher academic class. Of course he knows this and probably takes pleasure in writing articles like this.
That’s right...out here, most bookstores come with a Starbucks either in the store or the strip mall.
They are white liberals so they think they know exactly what to do with other people.
In '97 or '98, I was liaison from Sasebo Naval Base for a USS BLUE RIDGE port visit to Kagoshoma, Japan. The morning the ship left, 7th Fleet staff gave a letter to mail when I returned to Sasebo. It was from Commander 7th Fleet (I think it was VADM Natter at the time) to Dr. Thomas Sowell at the Hoover Institution. I had a couple of his books and I remember thinking how cool this was. I always wondered what the subject of the letter was-maybe it's mentioned in this book...
That’s interesting...Funny how things like that happen in our lives and they are remembered and mulled over for years.
I have read comments from people here at FR on his book “A Man of Letters” and they speak highly of it, I’ve been meaning to get it.
When I am buying a product or service for our company, I really don’t care about color or gender or ethnicity as long as they give me the best product or service for my money. But I in principal don’t even consider the companies who promote on their logo that they are a women owned company, for example. Do I have to buy their product in sympathy? I think not.
I wonder, if anybody ever did a research if such practices help or hurt them? In his example about books, Sowell says it clearly hurts them.
I love when people make up new words.
Sepatate v. To separate and decapitate during capital punishment. Similar to the act of drawing and quartering.
I think he’s right on target with this. I have always felt that putting black writers in a special section was condescending at best, offensive at worst. Futhermore, it no doubt cuts down on their sales because the white buying public either doesn’t see them or somehow feels whites are not supposed to buy them because they might be treading on territory sacred to and reserved for blacks alone.
I particularly like this one because it touches on something that has puzzled me for quite some time.
As a nation we preach the virtues of leaving racism behind and judging others "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". The "media" seem to be the ones pounding out this drumbeat.
Yet, they are the ones who are first to note the race of anyone who is remarkable for their achievements....."Guion S. Bluford, the first African-American astronaut...Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice...Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the Major Leagues...Elaine Chow, the first Asian Secretary of Labor"...and so on.
As Mr. Sowell would seem to be asking...what difference does it make and why should anyone care?
Until this practice or mindset is left behind to rot, racism will be alive and well in America.
Very well said, agree completely.
The media are the megephone for the Sharpton’s and Jackson’s. You never read in the MSM the accomplishments of people like Sowell and Williams. The Sowell’s and Williams’ have become very successful not because of their color but because of their hard work and they are down to earth people and great thinkers.
The Sharpton’s and Jackson’s are self promoting con men in it for the bucks and are trying to get something for nothing for themselves and for many others that want everything handed to them.
People have to earn the respect of others and become successful through their own efforts, not because of the color of their skin or gender.
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